I loved talking with Pam at Art is You last month (you can watch our conversation here) and asked her to tell us more about drawing faces, which she loves and makes seem so simple but which, for the rest of us, is both challenging and just the tiniest bit scary.
Here’s what she says:
When I sat down with Ricë at Art Is You…Nashville, we began to talk about drawing, faces in particular and about how that became my favorite inspiration in my sketchbook. I admitted I love the challenge of it and that each one is like a person, different, not perfect and a little part of me. The faces in my journals and sketchbooks are like self-portraits, though not ones that necessarily look like me.
I’ll admit I’m pretty focused and driven, so when I set out to do something, I don’t easily give up. In 2008 I decided (and put it ‘out there’ in an interview) that I wanted to sharpen my drawing skills, which had pretty much lain dormant while I was pursuing painting, collage and other mixed-media work. I knew that if I put in the time I’d see improvement, and as I look back through my sketchbooks the evidence is there. I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
-You are never ‘done’ learning about the human face. This is perhaps what is so intriguing about this subject and why so many are drawn to it. I take many side trips where I’ll study just the ear or eye or other detail and then go back to add those features into my faces.
-Use the same sketch multiple times to fully explore it and to strengthen your portrait skills. Tracing is a GOOD thing! Tracing your own work build memory into your artistic muscles. Like the eyes on one sketch, nose on another and mouth on another still? Get out that light box (there’s even a light box app for iPads) and trace your favorite features from each of your drawings onto one face. Then you can practice tracing and drawing that face, building off of it.
-One key factor to creating a look of your own is to add a bit of you to your portrait making it a self-portrait of sorts, so take a facial feature you like or maybe even don’t like (notice the slight ‘bump’ on the noses of some of my sketches?) and incorporate that into your work. This puts your ‘signature’ on it that helps you develop a look that is your own.
-Instead of getting hung up on getting one sketch ‘perfect’ move on and create another. This is vital to moving forward. I don’t ever spend more than half an hour and most times 15 minutes on a sketch. Then I’m done and I turn the page. Getting all caught up on one sketch, erasing and re-drawing, can quickly spiral into frustration. Let your people be ‘who’ they are meant to be.
-The last tip is simple: Draw. Put in the time, just a few minutes a day and you will see improvement! If you want to, what are you waiting for? Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and begin!
Pam Carriker is a mixed media artist, author, columnist, and instructor. For information about her current online Still Pursuing Portraits workshop at Artful Gathering this summer and her signature products, visit her website at pamcarriker.com She welcomes email at email@example.com
Be sure to check out her book, Art at The Speed of Life.
For more drawing instruction, you might also like Secrets of Drawing: Figures and Faces, by Craig Nelson.
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